One of the things that has been bringing joy to my life lately is providing safe spaces for people of color to connect, share their stories, and support each other. These spaces have been therapeutic for those who attended with tears flowing and connections made. People have shared experiences that they thought were unique to them only to find commonality and realize that they are not alone.
Many of us tend to isolate ourselves when we are having a hard time. We may pull away from friends and family during these times because we are usually the “strong one” the person who others turn to when they’re upset. We worry that if we shared our struggles the people that we love would be burdened. We tell ourselves that other people have their own stuff going on and don’t need to be stressed by what’s happening with us. Some of us isolate during times of trouble because we avoid being vulnerable. It feels scary to tell someone that we are having a hard time and need support. We worry that we might be judged or rejected if we open up. For some people, self-criticism keeps them from reaching out to others, they are so harsh on themselves that they can’t imagine receiving help from someone else. All of these ways of thinking keep us stuck, alone, in our pain. Believing that we don’t deserve, or shouldn’t seek support from loved ones keeps us from the very thing we need the most when we are going through a difficult time. Continue reading
Resentment is like a dark cloud hanging over us. It can sap the joy from things we once found pleasurable and can leave us feeling frustrated and angry much of the time. Resentment is the feeling that we experience when we say yes to something that we really don’t want to do. When we feel like the people in our lives are not taking us into consideration or acknowledging our needs. Resentment typically arises when we are overworked and over-committed. When we’re busy taking care of responsibilities, handling things, making stuff happen, and we remember that we agreed to that choir rehearsal, to make a dish for a potluck, to host a gathering because we felt guilty about saying no. When we spend most of our time thinking about the needs and wants of people in our lives and don’t feel anyone is considering us. Knowing that we are sacrificing our peace and free time for the sake of someone else and feeling taken advantage of.
I believe resentment is something many Black women struggle with. Feeling like we have to pick up the slack for the people around us, feeling like our lives are filled with obligations, and struggling to say no to commitments can leave us resentful. As Black women we are often in the position of doing the work to make things happen. Whether at church, schools, or our workplaces, Black women are the people working late, picking people up, dropping people off, cooking, cleaning, setting up, organizing, coordinating, etc. Often, the expectation is that we do this thankless work with limited recognition or appreciation. We are taken for granted in our families, our places of worship, and our jobs. All of this leads to resentment. Getting annoyed when someone asks us to do something because we feel we can’t say no is a sign of resentment. Feeling frustrated and judgmental of people who establish boundaries and say no to things is another sign that we are struggling with resentment. Continue reading
I had a tough week two weeks ago. I came back in town from being at a funeral over the weekend and then promptly started a treatment for some gut issues I’ve been dealing with. Then I had a reaction to the treatment, which had me feeling pretty badly on Tuesday and Wednesday. I needed to take time off but I could only bring myself to take off about 3 hours at the end of one day. My struggle to take off the time that I needed pushed me to think about what makes this so difficult for me. I’m pretty good at engaging in consistent self-care if it does not keep me from helping or supporting other people. However, when it came to telling clients that I can’t see them I struggled to do what I needed for myself.
In contemplating this issue I got the sense that this was about more than wanting to be there to help my clients. That is certainly true, and for the most part I know my clients will be just fine if they don’t see me for a week. There was something deeper that was keeping me from taking the sick time that I needed. What I realized was that at the core of this struggle was my fear of being seen as unreliable or sick. I was worried that taking time for myself would make people think of me in a negative light. My struggle to care for myself is caused by my belief that being healthy, competent, and capable at all times is condition of my self-worth Continue reading
Romantic relationships used to be the number one trigger for my anxiety. I would experience some stress and anxiety related to academics and a little in response to friendships but dating was what consistently caused me to feel most anxious. And there’s good reason, in contrast to a lot of areas of our lives, romantic relationships are one place where we don’t have much control. Sure we have agency over how we engage with the person we are dating but we can’t control how they feel about us. We can feel like we are doing “all the right things” but we can’t make someone like or commit to us. Also, romantic relationships put us in a place of vulnerability. In romantic relationships more than other types of relationships, we open up to our partners and share parts of ourselves that we are scared to let the world see. This combination of dynamics coupled with my desire for everyone to like me and the pressure I felt starting around age 23 to meet and marry the right partner made relationships a powder keg for my anxiety.
Thankfully, I have emerged from that period of my life more calm and grounded in myself, which has helped me to be much less anxious in relationships. My last relationship was a true testament to the growth that I’ve experienced in this area. While there were times when I felt anxious I was able to manage these periods and communicate constructively with my boyfriend about what I needed. Instead of getting overwhelmed and leaving the relationship abruptly or beginning to criticize my partner in response to my anxiety I learned to soothe myself and identify when I wanted to address a concern and when I could let things go.
Below, I highlight some of the primary challenges people encounter related to anxiety in romantic relationships along with strategies to begin effectively managing your anxiety so that it does not ruin your relationship. Continue reading
I notice a tightness in my chest and an empty feeling in my abdomen. It’s uncomfortable. I am able to identify these sensations as signaling feelings of sadness and anger for me. I remind myself to accept these feelings as I’ve learned from both professional training and spiritual teachings. I am able to sit with the feeling for a moment or two and then my mind is off and running. Coming up with explanations about why I feel this way. Blaming someone who I think is at fault for me feeling this way. Blaming myself. Thinking of things to help me feel better. Maybe if I listen to a spiritual teaching, eat some chocolate, or drink some wine I’ll fee better. Maybe if I get some reassurance or affirmation, I’ll feel better. This usually continues for a few minutes and then in a moment of space between thoughts I am able to step back and gently remind myself to just feel it. To welcome these painful feelings like a cute puppy and to offer the feelings and myself some comfort. This is hard. I know I’m progressing in this area because my awareness of what is happening has increased. But this awareness has made it easier to see how much my mind tries to help me escape these feelings with strategies that would probably help me to feel good in the moment but ultimately don’t allow me to process and release what I’m experiencing. Continue reading
I love that therapy is a topic of discussion on Insecure and that Molly has started going to therapy this season. I appreciate the transition from Molly being angry at Issa for hinting that she might benefit from therapy to Molly actively engaging in therapy and Issa supporting her in the process. It would be wonderful if more friends could support each other in going to therapy and talk about how it is going. In this post I highlight a couple of things related to Molly’s pursuit of therapy that I think we can learn from.
Find the right therapist for you
During the first episode of season 2 Molly and Issa discuss the fact that Molly has met with a couple of different therapists in her effort to find the right person for her. This is significant because so many people go to a few session of therapy with one therapist and if that therapist isn’t the right fit they give up on therapy all together. One reason for this that it takes a lot of courage to go therapy and it can be disheartening to go to a few sessions with one therapist, share your story, and then figure out that person is not going to work for you. However, while finding a therapist can certainly be a challenging process it is important to stick with it until you find someone who feels right for you. Think about finding a therapist like you might think about dating. Just like you wouldn’t go one one bad date and give up on dating all together, I encourage you not to do that with therapy. Therapists are humans and they have different personalities and styles and just like you won’t be a good romantic match for everyone you go on a date with, you won’t be a good therapeutic match for every therapist you meet. Continue reading
I came back from a marvelous trip to Europe two weeks ago. The trip was wonderful in so many ways and exactly what I needed to take a break from work, relax, and feel restored.
One of the wonderful things about vacations is their ability to bring us into the present moment. The new sights, sounds, and experiences help us to stay mindful in a way that is more challenging when we are at home. Limited wifi and cell service and failing cell phone batteries help us to disconnect from social media and pay attention to what’s right in front of us. However, while it is easier to stay present and relax on vacation it is still possible to feel stressed and worried instead of calm, which is why it is important to be intentional about making our vacations restorative. In this post I share my suggestions for how to do this. Continue reading
I’m feeling burned out…I have said yes to too many things, I have too much on my plate, I have some tough things going on in my personal life and the result is me feeling burned out. One of the worst parts of this is that it’s negatively impacting my work. I love being a therapist; sitting with people, helping them to process their emotions and experiences, bearing witness to their pain, and talking through strategies to help them improve their lives. And yet, in this space of burnout I feel less empathic and patient with my clients who are most challenging. My ability to take a step back and see what is happening emotionally in sessions has been diminished. I feel guilty and embarrassed by these shortcomings. I feel badly that I may not be offering my clients the best support possible.
Part of my experience of stress and burnout is situational. I work at a university that is on a quarter system and this is the time of the quarter when we are busy and have a lot to fit in before the academic year ends. Part of this is because of my own difficulty saying no to things and my general excitement related to taking on new things. I am realizing that I need to be more strategic about what I say yes to and that I cannot sign on to everything that looks good and comes my way.
I imagine that most of you may have experienced burnout or have felt overwhelmed at one point or another, so I’m opening up and writing this post for my own growth and healing and in the hopes that it helps you too. The following is what I’m doing to get myself out of this space. Continue reading
We are living in stressful times. Whether you’re concerned about the fates of Syrian refugees, undocumented immigrants, transgender people, the gender wage gap, people of color, or the environment, there are lots of things that need our support. As these issues become more present to us I believe that more people are asking themselves how they can help. More of us are wondering whether the careers that we have chosen will enable us to affect change in this world. I believe that our greatest accomplishments are those that help to solve our world’s greatest challenges. Your deepest satisfaction will come from the meaningful contributions you make to the common good.
I adapted this post from a graduation speech that I gave and I hope it will help those of you wanting to live a meaningful life and working to determine how to use your gifts and passions to make a positive impact on the world. Continue reading
There is an elementary school down the street from my office and every afternoon around 3:45pm there is a long line of cars with parents and caregivers waiting to pick up their children from school. At least a couple times a week this line of cars is accompanied by someone who decides to lay on their horn seemingly frustrated with the traffic caused by 5 year olds getting in their parent’s cars to go home. It always feels nonsensical to me. Why would someone honk and get so frustrated if they know this traffic jam happens every day at the same time and if they know the cause of it? Why wouldn’t they take another route to get where they need to go? Or better yet, why don’t they just relax and make their way through the line like everyone else?
It’s easy to judge these drivers who honk their horns loudly in frustration and to get annoyed at the noise pollution they cause as I attempt to provide a calming therapeutic space for my clients and yet as I take some time to reflect and use this as a metaphor I realize that there must be times and places where I do something similar.
I have to ask myself, where do I create unnecessary stress and tension while also disrupting the people around me because I’m resisting what is? Where are the places that I struggle against life when I really need to relax and let life go at it’s own pace? When are the times that I run into the same predictable barriers only to respond with frustration instead of humor and acceptance? I’m going to take some time to think about my answers to these questions with the hope that it will make my life and the lives around me more calm and peaceful. I encourage you to think about where these places are for you. When are you honking your horn during a predictable traffic jam? Where are you struggling against life?